PONT - Partnerships Overseas Networking Trust - was originally set up in 2005 to link the town of Pontypridd with the Ugandan town of Mbale, by linking professionals and organizations in Pontypridd with their counterparts in Africa.
Not long after, the whole of Rhondda Cynon Taf county borough was twinned with the wider Mbale District, expanding the partnership to a regional level of 750,000 people.
The concepts behind PONT started as far back as the Ethiopian Famine of 1985. At the time a team of health workers from the Pontypridd area volunteered to work in refugee camps in Ethiopia, whilst another team that also included church leaders visited camps in Sudan. This direct link resulted in the amount of aid raised in the Pontypridd area being much higher than the norm, and with people from all walks of life offering support. People in Pontypridd were able to hear first hand accounts of the work undertaken, and they became more informed and involved as donors.
The current PONT project was conceived in the year 2000 when a small group of people met together to think through ideas for a longer term town partnership. The intention was to set up a framework that could harness people’s interest from a grassroots level. In 2002 the first visit was made to Mbale, a town of a similar size to Pontypridd that serves a region of 760,000 people, most of whom live in poor rural villages. The people of Mbale district are amongst some of the poorest in Africa, with average income less than $1 per day, average life expectancy of 46, and infant mortality rates of about 200 per thousand.
The first step was to identify the key indigenous NGO's (Non Governmental Organisations) who were seeking to maximise the aid work amongst the poorest communities. This was helped by contacts provided by international NGO's who had worked in this area previously. We then visited the projects they already had in operation and asked how we could best serve them. From the outset PONT has identified local partners who are already doing good work. The aim has been to empower them to deliver more effectively, at the same time increasing capacity by training and setting in place monitoring systems to audit and improve governance. An important part of this has been to involve local government officials at the planning stage and also in the monitoring and certification of the voluntary workers. By doing this we set up a network between existing NGO's and integrating this network with local government.
We have been careful not to impose our own agenda, but to identify a consensus amongst our partners on their priorities. We have also been keen to avoid setting up any new structure or organisation, but simply to work through those already in existence and doing a good job. As a result we have an inbuilt method to audit and assess the effectiveness of our aid, by comparing the results of autonomous organizations in terms of their ability to deliver agreed outcomes with equal amounts of funding. The key steps have been to identify trustworthy individuals already doing a good job, and then to build a relationship with them, before jointly identifying worthwhile projects. Only then do we seek to raise funds which are always specifically targeted at pre-costed projects.This framework was put in place over a series of 3 visits. On the fourth visit, in May 2005, PONT was launched publicly by holding official twinning ceremonies with both local and regional politicians in Mbale and Pontypridd. The projects that were established initially included medical links, school links and church links. The PONT framework has developed quickly, with individuals and groups throughout the community establishing different links. You can learn more about each individual partnership and their associated projects in the different Partnership Links sections.